January 20 2016
Town Meeting to Discuss Recommending the End of Health Insurance for Elected Officials
By: Rich Hosford
Town Meeting is scheduled to discuss an issue that Board of Selectmen Chairman Michael Runyan called a “hot potato issue” last summer.
The question at hand is whether or not the board should vote to stop the town’s practice of offering health insurance to non-full-time elected officials. Article 26 of the January Town Meeting, which starts on Monday, warrant is a vote to request the selectmen discontinue the practice, giving individuals currently on the plan two years to make other arrangements. The article was submitted by Town Meeting Member Patricia Angelo, Precinct 5.
When the proposal to discontinue health insurance for elected officials was discussed by the Board of Selectmen in August of 2015, the issue split the board. Runyan was in favor of the idea and said it was time for the practice to stop.
At his request Town Treasurer Brian Curtin gave the whole board a summary of how many elected officials have insurance provided by the town through their role in office. He said out of 36 officials eligible, nine take advantage of the health insurance offer, and an additional three retirees are also on the program.
He added that in total it cost the town $158,000 to provide the insurance policies, including the three retirees. For those in office now the total is $126,000. That’s an average of $14,000 per person though Curtin said the policy prices range from $8,000 to $18,000.
For his part Runyan said he wasn’t looking to take away anyone’s insurance. He suggested the board vote to grandfather current recipients but to not offer the insurance to anyone in the future.
He said the funds would be better used put towards town projects, though he did say that perhaps an increase in the stipend elected officials receive would be in order to compensate them for the long hours they put in. The stipend for elected officials has not been increased in decades.
Selectman Joseph Morandi agreed but there was by no consensus among the board.
Selectman Chris Hartling said the health insurance benefit is a good way to compensate people who spend a lot of time preparing for meetings and leading the town. He also argued that Burlington already has many uncontested races for important positions and removing this incentive might cause even further disinterest among possible candidates.
Selectman Daniel Grattan said he would like to ensure members of the other boards are aware of the possible change, which is under the discretion of the selectmen, before taking a vote.